Hear ye, Hear ye - Competitions for New Manufacturing Innovation Hubs and Apprenticeship Grants

At a meeting of the President’s Export Council (PEC) held on December 11, President Obama announced that several hundred million dollars of funding will be made available for two new Manufacturing Innovation Hub Competitions that are intended to help spur manufacturing innovation and give U.S. workers more opportunities to improve their skills for middle class jobs. The Department of Energy will lead a competition for a new institute on smart manufacturing, and the Department of Defense will lead a competition for a new institute focused on flexible hybrid electronics. Each institute will receive $70 million or more of federal investment to be matched by at least $70 million from private sources.

Innovation Image for WebThe new smart manufacturing institute will focus on "smart" technologies such as advanced sensors, controls, platforms and models for manufacturing.  The institute will combine manufacturing, digital technologies, and energy efficiency expertise to provide manufacturers real-time control of energy use across factories and companies. This will boost companies' productivity and slash their energy costs. In fact, industries such as chemical production, solar cell manufacturing and steelmaking can shave 10 to 20% off the cost of production.  The new institute will receive a federal investment of $70 million, to matched by at least $70 million in private investments, and will help in reaching the goal of doubling U.S. energy efficiency by 2030.

The new flexible hybrid electronics institute is timely because our modern world is rapidly filling up with electronic devices including computers, cell phones, sensors and others.  Most of these devices are made up of boxy, rigid circuit boards. However,  objects such as our bodies and automobiles often reflect an organically derived shape with curves and flexibility. "Flexible hybrid electronics" combine advanced materials that flex with thinned silicon chips to produce electronic products which seamlessly integrate into objects.  Examples include wearable, wireless medical monitors, stretchable electronics for robotics and vehicles and smart bridges capable of alerting engineers to the first signs of potentially hazardous problems such as cracks or weak joints. Additionally, intelligent bandages and smart clothing will alert soldiers to the first signs of injury or exhaustion. The new institute will combine $75 million of federal investment with $75 million or more of private investment.

Obama also announced the availability of $100 million to expand apprenticeships for U.S. workers. Apprenticeships have proven to be a tried and true path for workers wanting to learn the skills employers need to grow and thrive in a competitive global environment. Apprenticeships pave the way to the middle class, with statistics claiming that 87% of apprentices are employed after completing such a program and that the average starting wage for apprenticeship graduates is over $50,000.

For more information on the manufacturing innovation institute competitions, see Manufacturing.gov

For more information on the American Apprenticeship Grants Competition, see www.dol.gov/apprenticeship